ROSS County began yesterday’s match with the poorest away record in the Premiership but headed back to the Highlands with a thoroughly merited first away win of the season.
Scorers: Ross County - Carey (33), Gardyne (40), Quinn (45)
On an afternoon when the winners of the toss could choose between attacking the deep end or the shallow end, it was Killie who sunk while County swam.
They remain in their customary position at the foot of the table and are now behind St Mirren only on goal difference but at least their 96 travelling fans were finally rewarded for their perseverance.
Manager Jim McIntyre, though, preferred to pay tribute to former Hearts and Scotland defender Darren Barr, who will miss the rest of this campaign through injury.
“That was a win for Darren because he’s going to be out for a long time – between six months and a year,” he said. “The injury is a real blow but he has mental strength because he’s been there before and he knows what’s required.
“It happened when he fell and twisted his knee against Aberdeen but it says everything about Darren that he managed to get through the rest of the game because we’d already used our three substitutes. We only found out the extent of the injury on Friday night and we were as surprised as anyone.”
Kilmarnock can have few complaints about the result but Craig Samson can certainly consider himself unlucky to have conceded the opener. The goalkeeper did superbly well to touch a venomous drive from Graham Carey on to his crossbar but the ball rebounded off the back of his head and ended up in the net.
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Rory McKenzie squandered a decent opportunity to equalise when he sliced his shot wide after being played in by Chris Johnston.
County capitalised on that escape by scoring in their next forage forward.
Jamie Reckord’s long punt out of defence was controlled by Michael Gardyne, who evaded a despairing lunge from Mark Connolly and then steadied himself before beating Samson with a low, angled drive from 12 yards.
Kilmarnock’s fans are never slow to grumble and they were in full revolt mode when their side cheaply conceded a third goal in first-half stoppage time, with defender Paul Quinn volleying home from a Carey’s curling corner.
The second half was a non-event, with County happy to hold what they had and Kilmarnock incapable of wresting it away from them.
“I don’t think we can have any excuses,” said manager Allan Johnston. “We were very poor through the whole team and it wasn’t good enough from start to finish.
“That was particularly true of the first half. We’d been looking solid defensively but the goals we lost were cheap and that’s really frustrating.
“I don’t think that anyone hit the heights that they’ve achieved for us this season. If you compare our win against Dundee United with that display today then there was a massive difference in the energy levels, the passing and movement and everything else.
“We haven’t changed things much so it’s hard to put your finger on it but there is a slackness which has crept into our play.”
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